Palak is an Indian spinach dish that everyone knows from Palak Paneer, in which it is served with Indian cheese. I do not think that I ever tasted that dish before going vegan, but I’ve witnessed friends devour it in restaurants numerous times, and have become curious. Palak is delicious on its own, but tofu does add nutrition as well as a whole new texture component. We marinated the tofu briefly in miso-infused lemon juice, and its fresh tanginess paired very well with the smooth and spicy spinach sauce.
Asafoetida, also known as stinking gum, or hajupihka in Finnish, is a very pungent spice, and isn’t to everyone’s liking. We only recently started using it, and I don’t find its fragrance all too repulsive, but Heikki is pretty sensitive about it. So, if you’re unsure, use it sparingly and see if you like it – I think it’s worth a try. Maybe the best bet is to try and not smell your spices while you are frying them, because that’s when the asafoetida odours really can get you – then you probably won’t even notice which part of the delicious curry taste comes from that particular spice component.
While I was cooking the spinach, I started to wonder why it didn’t turn brown like the spinach in Indian restaurants does, and googled my way to a few recipes for Palak Tofu on two of my favorite blogs Mahanandi and Fatfree Vegan. They both have fresh tomatoes in them, which explains the color – maybe I’ll include those next time, but I think that my addition of lemon juice provides some of the fruitiness that would normally come from tomatoes.
- 300 g firm tofu
- 1/2 dl freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons brown rice miso
The Spinach Purée:
- 250 g fresh spinach leaves
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried ground coriander
- 1 dried crushed chili
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin (jeera)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) – be careful!
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 dl water
- (1 tablespoon plain, unsweetened soy yogurt)
Heikki prepared the tofu by pressing it and then cutting it in small squares not thicker than half a centimeter. Then he patted the squares to get most of the moisture out. Now, he mixed the lemon juice with the miso paste, and placed the marinade with the tofu in an air tight container and let them sit in the room temperature while we proceeded with the rest of the cooking.
I minced the onions, ginger, and garlic, and heated the peanut oil in a frying pan on medium-low heat. Now, I fried the onions for 10 minutes, until they started to turn golden but not yet brown, and added ginger and garlic to the pan. I fried them for a minute or so, turned up the heat a bit, and then added the rest of the spices (except salt and sugar). I toasted them for a minute or so, stirring all the time.
Meanwhile, Heikki had rinsed and chopped the spinach leaves, and I added them to the pan. I fried them until wilted, and then we placed the spinach mixture in a small bowl and Heikki puréed it with an immersion blender. He poured it back in the pan, added 1 dl of water, the sugar and the salt, and let the mixture simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Then I added the tofu in the pan, reserving the marinade, and simmered the curry for another 10 minutes. Before serving, I mixed in the soy yogurt, adjusted the saltiness of the dish, and then we enjoyed our Palak Tofu over jasmine rice.